God Rejoices With Us

Some great verses and thoughts about Christ and joy from our associate pastor, Matt Jones, this morning.

Remember God rejoices with us:

The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” (‭Zephaniah‬ ‭3‬:‭17‬ NIV)

God’s voice is heard loudly and clearly through the words of Jesus.

Jesus shared and shares his words, the words of God our Heavenly Father, so our joy can be complete.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. (‭John‬ ‭15‬:‭1-11‬ NIV)

Jesus Called Him Simon Again

When Jesus called Simon to be His disciple, Jesus gave him a new name: Peter. In the garden of Gethsemane just before he was betrayed by Judas, however, Jesus called Peter by his former name once again. I never noticed this before, and our pastor (Matt Jones) pointed it out today in his sermon. In Mark 14:37 we read:

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour?

Jesus calls us all to remain awake and not sleep as we face times of trial together.

Bringing Up Daughters of the King by Dan Liberto

These are my notes from Dan Liberto’s workshop, “Bringing Up Daughters of the King,” on May 3, 2014 at the Mo-Ranch Men’s Conference.

thefreedomgirls.com
– family discipleship ministry
– objective is partnering with parents and helping them discipling their children

Do this through workshops, conferences, and Biblical Ruth Doll / Book

Ministry name: Generation with a Name
Psalm 145:4 “One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts.You as the dad and leader of your house, or as a grandparent, or as a mentor…”

– you have the opportunity to stand in the gap between that child and a culture that is roaming around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour

Highly recommended book: “Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know” by Meg Meeker

Research shows your physical affection for your daughter is the best predictor of of your daughter’s self esteem

No gimmicks, no tricks: Just Deuteronomy 6
– simple to understand, difficult to apply (because of our sin nature)

we have to fight the battle for our kids, but we also have to fight our own battles

1st pillar: Love the Lord with ALL your heart, soul and strength

2nd pillar: Impress his love on your children

3rd pillar: Tie them as symbols in your doorposts

If you are going to talk the talk, you have to walk the walk
– it’s impossible for you to walk the walk without the strength of the Lord

these are all relational
2012 article in Homeschool Dads: “A Great Time to be a Husband, Parent and a Dad”

The marital bond is the foundation of the family
– it must be communion
– when you put Jesus Christ as the cornerstone, then you have the foundation

Parent in unified relationship with children
– need to be in unity

Obedience is more important than sacrifice
– parents can make it impossible for a child to be obedient if the parents are not unified in their relationships and expectations for the child

Dad in relationship with children individually
– this is the dad zone
– this is where we are specifically focusing today
– this is the “father daughter dance”

As a father you are called to give your children their needs, not necessarily their wants

Remember children aren’t saved through your faith
– you are fertilizing the soil through discipleship, so the Holy Spirit will grow the fruit

Garth Brooks: “I could have missed the pain, but I’d have had to miss the dance.”

You have to give kids age-appropriate liberty so they will grow

Another book recc: “Shepherding a Child’s Heart” by Tedd Tripp

You are God’s agent, not to manage your child’s behavior but to guide your child’s heart
– the behavior is a symptom
– the heart is the wellspring of life
– helping your child guard their heart is key

Never doubt your authority, it’s important for your children to never see you waiver with your faith

U571 movie scene: “Be a leader!”

Be courageous
– you are going to be ridiculed, made fun of
– the culture thinks it’s silly
– parents are subjected to peer pressure just like kids are

“The only way to know the inclinations of your child’s heart is to empower them to share their voice”

Be your child’s hero
– they need to know that you will move heaven and earth to help them with things they know
– let them know you will never abandon them
– best example: “The Prodigal Son”
– be grace filled

We hear it time and again in the Bible: “I will not leave or forsake you.”
– our children need to hear this constantly from us as parents

As dads, you have to get up on that wall
– you need to dress up like a warrior, to defend your castle against the many trojan horses that come in

Ephesians 6: this is a battle in the spiritual realm

Judges 5:8

God chose new leaders
when war came to the city gates,
but not a shield or spear was seen
among forty thousand in Israel.You have to be your daughter’s “Prince Charming”

– be the man you want your daughter to marry

Help them make sense of life with a Christian Worldview

Take your child on a journey of discovery!

Turn off the noise, and turn up the fellowship in your family (with your kids & spouse!)

Have a multi-generational vision for your family
– pray for your children’s spouses, children, etc.
– put away the shotgun and start praying for them, like Hannah did when she brought her child to Samuel

Which dad are you? What picture are you painting for your family?

Challenge and call to action: Let’s get to our creative side, reflect back on the kind of picture we’ve painted in the past
– ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to use those areas we need to shore up, and the Holy Spirit needs to encourage us in
– after you have reflected and received that feedback from the Holy Spirit, then pull out your canvas and decide which canvas you want to paint for the future

What do airline folks say about emergencies: Equip yourself first for the battle/struggle, then tend to your children

Encouraged by the story of Joseph

Today and last week I have been very encouraged by the story of Joseph and his brothers. This morning on my way to work I listened to the following verses:

“Please, come closer,” he said to them. So they came closer. And he said again, “I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into slavery in Egypt. But don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives. This famine that has ravaged the land for two years will last five more years, and there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors. So it was God who sent me here, not you! And he is the one who made me an adviser to Pharaoh—the manager of his entire palace and the governor of all Egypt. (Genesis 45:4-8 NLT)

http://bible.com/116/gen.45.4.nlt

It is encouraging to remember that God walks with us each day, and is using the experiences we are going through to further His plans and His kingdom, when we are called according to His purpose.

Quoting Lady Gaga in a Sermon

Our pastor shared this quotation from Lady Gaga today in his sermon, in the context of Genesis 3:1-7.

As we began the conversation, Gaga spoke carefully in a very odd accent—some combination of Madonna as Madge and a robot, an affect enhanced by the fact that she refused to remove her lightly tinted sunglasses over the course of two hours. “What I’ve discovered,” said robo-Gaga, with a photo-ready tilt of her head, “is that in art, as in music, there’s a lot of truth—and then there’s a lie. The artist is essentially creating his work to make this lie a truth, but he slides it in amongst all the others. The tiny little lie is the moment I live for, my moment. It’s the moment that the audience falls in love.”

Mateen said he recognizes this strategy: to portray a lie as truth. It is a common strategy of the Devil. Having listened to many of Lady Gaga’s songs myself, I can affirm there are many, many lies interspersed amidst more positive statements and even some real “truths.” Reality is obsfucated and deceptions are presented as desirable and good. In this way, Satan manifests himself as an Angel of light:

These people are false apostles. They are deceitful workers who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ. But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. In the end they will get the punishment their wicked deeds deserve. (2 Corinthians 11:13-15 NLT)

I have thought many times about creating some video deconstructions of Gaga’s songs to highlight the lies and deceptions which are artfully interlaced among compelling rhythms and melodies. I’m not sure I want to insert myself so directly into the “culture wars” of our current age, which those videos might force. I do think it’s extremely important for us to each be saavy & aware of the ways messages are crafted and presented all around us. We all need greater levels of media literacy to remain independent thinkers and (hopefully) avoid being manipulated unknowingly by others.

Our pastor’s use of this quote was the part of his sermon today that most caught my attention and got me thinking.

An Entrepreneurial Tipping Point

Update: Here’s part 2 (the ‘secular’ part): “Lessons Learned as an Educational Consultant (Oct 2013)”

I’ve been wanting to write this post for months, but I haven’t felt I was ready. I’ve decided to write this in two parts, and am writing here first… because it is impossible for me to write about this without discussing my faith in God, and I don’t want to partially write about this in the constrained way I’d feel I needed to if I only posted to my primary professional blog. That’s one of the main reasons I setup “Eyes Right,” so I would have a space to share about my faith and not feel I needed to “self-censor” because people were coming to my site for educational technology tips or other non-religious reasons. I’m not sure why you’ve come to this post… but hopefully you’ll find something which is not only practically helpful, but also points you toward God and gives you encouragement in your own journey of faith.

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In February of 2009, I become a full-time digital learning consultant. It was a big leap of faith. In the ensuing 4 1/2 years, I’ve learned a great deal, but I still don’t feel like “I’ve arrived” or “I’ve figured this out.” That’s the main reason I’ve delayed writing this post… I still feel like I have SO many things to figure out, and perhaps (with more time) I’ll figure out more of them and THEN write this post. Yet, time marches on, and things continue to both change and evolve. There are many, many more lessons to still learn, but perhaps now is a good time to share a few that I’ve learned up to this point.

In the past few weeks, I’ve reached “an entrepreneurial tipping point” as a full-time digital learning consultant. I believe God is calling me to stop doing my consulting work full-time, and instead take a full-time teaching position and only consult a bit on the side. It has been my dream for years to be a full-time educational consultant, and this has been what I’ve done now for almost five years… but there are a lot of caveats to that history and it’s been FAR from the glamorous job it might appear to be to outside observers. The ONLY way our family has survived financially and otherwise the past 4.5 years is thanks to the grace of God: as manifested in the generosity as well as support of our parents, our church family, and my professional work for an ongoing educational nonprofit. This isn’t something which God revealed to me through a burning bush or another dramatic encounter… it’s actually something which has become apparent because of financial difficulties. Since I started as an educational consultant, I’ve frequently wondered what my “Now I’ve got to STOP doing this” point would be. It’s not something I’d defined. I never even created a formal “business plan” for the LLC I started, and I’m sure that would have been a good idea. We’ve lived ridiculously close to “the financial edge” of having absolutely no money… exhausted savings, almost no available credit. I’m embarrassed to admit this, and I question the degree to which I should be publicly transparent about it. I know there are many, many people who live “month to month” with “regular” jobs, not trying to make it as entrepreneurs, but I don’t take solace in that. It’s not the responsible way to live, and whether it’s something lots of people do or not it’s not right. Still, I’ve known that persistence and faith in the path forward have been important, and I’ve believed that God would eventually financially bless my efforts if I persisted in always striving to follow His will for my life, and following the path in life I believe He is calling me to travel.

So, to try and avoid a rambling post (which would be VERY easy to write on this topic) I’m going to organize my thoughts into several “lessons learned” which have a specifically Christian and religious focus. I’m next going to write a secular version of this which addresses things which aren’t particularly faith-based. I’m not doing this to hide any of these ideas, or to hide my faith… which I strongly feel is important to share with others. It’s because the people who read my primary educational blog aren’t coming there to read about my faith journey… and there are aspects of this which can only be shared in the context of faith and my walk with God. Here we go. Many of these things aren’t “lessons learned” or “advice” that is just applicable to someone who is pursuing or wants to pursue a career as an educational consultant. Lots of this can apply to anyone.

1. Seek a Spiritual Mentor

One of the best things I FINALLY did in the last year was find a spiritual mentor who I meet with on a monthly basis. Mine is Curt Gruel, who is the leader of a “Heartpaths” group here in the Oklahoma City area. They have a multi-year training program in which they learn how to become spiritual advisors to other Christians, helping them grow in their journey of faith and both recognize and understand the call of God’s Holy Spirit in their lives. My wife has been in this “Spiritual Directions” program though our church for the last seven years, and it’s been transformational for her. It has been for me too. It’s not quite accurate to call this a “program” of our church, because it’s not something that is very visible to others. I don’t know if it’s listed as an official ministry, and it’s not something you’ll find in our bulletin on Sundays. Still, it’s definitely something members of our church are intimately involved with, and it’s an ecumenical ministry involving multiple churches.

The reason spiritual mentorship is gigantic goes back to Biblical stories and models like Paul and Timothy. We’re all called to have mentors in our spiritual life, and to also serve “mentee’s” too. Meeting regularly with someone to explore where God is moving and acting in your life is a powerful experience. It helps focus not only your attention, but also sensitize your spirit to God’s Spirit. God is moving around us all the time, but so often we’re too “blinded by our busyness” to see Him and his work. These verses from John, as Jesus talked to Nicodemus about how God’s Spirit is like the wind, are a case in point. We can see and experience the effects of God’s Spirit every day, but we have to be attuned to Him to see Him. That process (which thankfully continues) has been HUGE for me to better recognize and understand God’s Holy Spirit in my own life.

2. Spend Daily Time in God’s Word

The last two years I’ve read through the entire Bible with the assistance of daily reading plans included as part of the YouVersion iPhone Bible app. (free) The first year I actually got behind and didn’t complete the last few books, but I was close. The second year I stayed on track better and finished the entire Bible. This year I haven’t done a daily reading plan, but I try to read the Bible most days. Reading God’s Word daily is essential. There are SO many competing sources of information angling for our attention each minute of every day. Planting God’s Word into my mind intentionally every day has been a HUGE part of my walk with Him, and is a giant part of the reason now I feel very confident about how he’s directing me professionally to change course.

3. Seek Balance in All Things

Especially for the past year, I’ve been working hard to strike a better balance in my life in multiple arenas, including spiritual development. I want to live my life in balance when it comes to my work, sleep, family time, prayer, Bible study, other kinds of reading, play, and exercise. This is really tough. I tend to be a person who works too much. Since most of my work is done on a computer, and I have access to laptops, I can work anywhere and at anytime. There is so much work to be done, it would be easy to be overwhelmed. I have not given some things in my life, like exercise, play, free reading, and (at times) sleep, the time and attention they both need and deserve. It’s vital to MAKE time, not find time, for spiritual growth and development. For me, this happens both through scheduled meetings with groups like my Friday morning men’s group as well as individual time to read the Bible, pray, and be quiet as I listen to God. I’m not still and quiet, as a listener, nearly enough… all of these things are hard and difficult for me. Yet I am convinced this is an important part of the call God has placed upon my life at this time, to not only take care of myself but also set a good example for my children and my wife. Balance is hard but thankfully I have multiple people in my life who are helping me stay accountable to these goals.

4. Have Humility to Ask and Accept Help

One of the absolutely worst, toughest, and HARDEST parts of trying to be an independent learning consultant over the past 4.5 years has been the times when we ran out of money and had to ask for help. Thankfully this hasn’t happened lots of times, but it has happened several times, and it’s excruciatingly difficult to ask family members for help. I absolutely didn’t want to do it any of the times we did, and when we did I never wanted to do it again. When this has happened, it has always been at times we were “waiting for checks” which were going to come in, but were late. Having to ask your family for financial help is a very humbling thing, and I don’t recommend it to anyone. I would say, however, that God can and does bless us through others including our family, and at times this can include financial help. So it’s important to have the humility as well as courage at times to ask for assistance, as well as ACCEPT assistance when it is offered. These experiences have taught both my wife and I that we want to maintain very open and transparent communication with all of our children as they grow older, so hopefully we can be in a position to help them when and if our financial assistance is needed. In this way our families have “paid it forward.” There is absolutely no way we could have made it without the support of our families, and our church family, over the past few years. Praise God for His blessings and his grace which he demonstrates and shares generously through those who are called according to His purposes.

5. Submit all major financial decisions to the Lord TOGETHER

I’ve learned the hard way that it’s vital to never make large financial decisions alone. It’s now our rule as a couple to always make large financial decisions together. Maybe this seems obvious to everyone else, but it wasn’t something I was using as a “personal operating procedure” early in our marriage. When you submit an idea, opportunity, or prospective purchase to the Lord together, there are important dynamics that kick in which can help avoid bad decisions. I’ve made bad decisions in the past, but my decisions have always been better (and better informed by God, I think) when I’ve discussed them with my wife, committed them to prayer, and then submitted them to God together.

6. Don’t Expect Things to Be Easy

I’ve been waiting for YEARS for things to financially “smooth out” and get easy for us, as I pursued what I believed to be God’s will for my life as an educational consultant. It never happened. Maybe it never will, but I actually think that God does not and will not call us to live in a constant state of financial uncertainly and stress. My advice for those who are considering full-time educational consulting work is to NEVER expect things to be easy. It certainly hasn’t been for me or for our family, but that doesn’t mean that we weren’t doing the things God had called us to do. I’ve never read in the Bible a passage where God said, “And when you choose to follow me, all your paths will be straight and I’ll always fill your bank account with more money than you need or can spend.” I’d love that to be true in many ways, but it’s simply not reality or God’s promise for our lives. I think there is a fine line to tread between being persistent and stubborn in our desire to follow our “dreams” and work toward the goals we want to achieve, and the need to be attuned to God’s Holy Spirit who can and may say at some point, “You need to go a different direction” or at least “Change tack by shifting your course over here.”

Those are a few of the lessons learned and ideas I’d like to share which tie directly to my journey of faith, regarding my career and professional work. Now I’m going to write a post over on my main blog, which will address the more “secular” lessons learned and bits of advice I can share.

If you’ve read this, I’d love to hear any feedback you have or ideas to share. May God bless you richly in your own journey of faith to know Him and to serve Him!

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The Tongue of Fire

These words from James, the half-brother of Jesus, remind me of a couple things today.

The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. (James 3:6 NIV)

First of all, it reminds me of bullying my wife talked about happening at school last week. It can be amazing, shocking, and sad (all at the same time) to witness how cruel kids can be to each other at times. Negative, attacking language can be like a poison. The words of children, even young ones, can be incredibly destructive.

The second thing it reminds me of is a conversation my wife I had last week, talking about the use of what might be termed, “stinkin’ thinkin’.” In many ways, we are both struggling with perceptions of failure. Some of this is financial, and some is also related to our family and professional work. We are not failures, and we are not failing, but there is a great temptation to not only view ourselves in this way but also talk about ourselves in this way. We are not and would not talk about each other this way, but in the past we have used the self talk of failure. This is incredibly destructive, and at least this time I was and am able to see it for the poison it is.

Perceptions of ourselves as failures do not come from the Spirit of God. They come from a spirit of evil, which seeks to destroy rather than build up. These words from James remind me how important words are, and how important it is that I take charge of my own tongue, even when I am using self-talk and language that only I can hear.

Perseverance

This was part of our devotion Bible passage this morning at our Men’s Council meeting at Mo-Ranch near Hunt, Texas.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3, 4 NIV)

Love, mercy and forgiveness are the gifts we have received and receive from God. As followers of Jesus we are called to share love, mercy and forgiveness with others. The comfort and encouragement which we receive from these gifts gives us the ability to persevere in times of difficulty.

These verses from our passage resonate with me because they remind me about how God works to shape us through hard times.

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. (2 Corinthians 1:8, 9 NIV)

It IS a blessing to learn to rely more on God and not rely on ourselves. I want to rely entirely on God and have complete faith on His provision for me and my family. It is a constant struggle to maintain that perspective, however. “The World” emphasizes what individuals can do, while Jesus encourages us to focus more on what God can do. I need regular reminders of this. Difficult life circumstances definitely can and do point me to the reality of God’s provision and His sufficiency.

The Heart is the Tree & Words are Your Fruit

A powerful message from Pastor Robert Morris on the value and power of words.

Here are some verses and key messages from this sermon.

From the fruit of their mouth a person’s stomach is filled; with the harvest of their lips they are satisfied. The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

Proverbs 18:20, 21 NIV

and

And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Matthew 12:31-37 NIV

Speak life into your family. The words we speak shape ourselves and shape our family members into the creations we and they become.

7 divine words for healing every relationship: “I was wrong, will you forgive me?”

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